After nearly a decade of silence, Wanetta Gibson wanted to “let bygones be bygones.” After a long, heartless hiatus, Gibson contacted a former high school classmate Brian Banks admitting to carrying heavy guilt on her conscience having held a lie locked in her safe keep all these years. For Banks, it was a lie that forced him to live the tail-end of his teenage life behind bars, wrongfully convicted as a rapist felon. While most kids his age were anticipating prom and diplomas, Banks sat alone in a cell with his dreams deferred. After a 62-month nightmare spent in an institutional cage—his dream of becoming a star college football player shattered—an electronic monitoring system tracked each step he took as the newest neighborhood sex offender on parole.
Today, Brian Banks’ outlook on life is vastly different—a complete 180 in fact. After arranging a private meeting with his former accuser, Banks managed to record Gibson on video admitting that she lied about being kidnapped and raped in an elevator back in 2002, an alleged event that had Banks handcuffed when he was just 17. Banks had insisted all along that his relationship with Gibson had been consensual, but was forced to settle on a plea agreement—advised by his lawyer—knowing a lost battle in the courtroom could mean up to 41-years in prison, instead of six. As an innocent man, just imagine making this sacrifice knowing nearly every major college football program in the nation had once had their eye locked on him as a rising stud linebacker.
Donned in a black hoodie with the bold word “innocent” stamped across his chest, Banks left the courtroom this past week in tears with his arms raised, exonerated from all charges. After nearly a decade wondering if he’d ever be given a fair chance to play the game of football again, Banks collected offers this week to try out for professional football teams, with invitations from the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. Banks has been training extensively since last October to reinvent himself as the athlete he once was before ending up in prison. Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll had once recruited Banks when he was the head coach at the University of Southern California—the Trojans being one of the heavy favorites to ink Banks’ letter of intent signature before his 2002 arrest. It feels like nothing short of a miracle that Banks will get a second chance to show Carroll he can still play the game. Will he be rusty? Sure…but nobody on the field will doubt nor question his hunger.
Why on earth—you are probably wondering—it took this long for Gibson to come clean? Certainly guilt and maturation played a role, but it turns out, Gibson was more so worried about losing out on a $1.5-million lawsuit her family had settled with the Long Beach School District. Yet again, another punch in the gut to America’s legal system. Fortunately for Banks, justice delayed doesn’t always mean justice is forever denied.
Riding a tremendous upswing in life, Banks has let go of all bitterness, harnessing anything and everything positive knowing this is his first real opportunity to “reconstruct his life.” This is one redemption story I will be following all summer long as Banks seeks to land a spot on a NFL roster.
Feel free to follow along yourself with the Brian Banks trap.